Election fever in Manipur: The pulse of politics amidst conflict

Takhellambam Nepolin
Election, the grandest festival of democracy, stands as a beacon of hope amidst the complexities of conflict and uncertainty. As the forthcoming Lok Sabha election 2024 casts its shadow over Manipur, it heralds a pivotal moment in the State’s intricate journey. Beyond its political significance, this electoral extravaganza embodies a vibrant celebration of democracy, where every citizen assumes a vital role in shaping the future trajectory of our beloved Nation. It is a time when we unite to exercise our rights and responsibilities, ensuring our voices are heard, and the most capable leaders are chosen to guide our country towards progress and prosperity.
Manipur grapples with a deep-seated conflict between the Meitei/Meetei and Chin-Kuki communities as the Nation gears up for the forthcoming elections. This strife has engulfed the region for the past ten months, leaving behind a trail of devastation. More than 200 lives have been lost, countless individuals are still missing, 70000 people have been displaced within their State, and 5000 sweet homes have turned into ashes. Despite concerted efforts by both the State Government and the Central authorities to mitigate the situation, the challenges remain daunting and seemingly impossible.  As bombs and bullets have now ceased to reverberate, the haunting echoes of grieving mothers and widows reverberate through the air, serving as a stark reminder of the ongoing conflict’s human cost. Though the physical violence may have subsided, the emotional scars and profound loss endured by affected families underscores the urgency for lasting peace and reconciliation in the region. Despite the gravity of the situation, a lasting solution remains elusive. Nevertheless, amidst this turmoil, the quiet approach of the election season makes its presence felt in Manipur.
Unlike the last election cycle, when political parties were in full swing, organising rallies and launching vigorous campaigns to secure victory for their candidates this year, the scenario appears quite different in Manipur. The usual hustle and bustle of campaign gatherings and rallies are noticeably absent. Nevertheless, the political fervour remains palpable amidst the backdrop of conflict.
Despite the lack of overt campaign activities, the pulse of politics beats strongly within the socio-political landscape of Manipur, underscoring the deep-rooted anticipation and engagement with the electoral process. Despite the absence of overt campaigning, the pulse of politics beats strongly, acknowledging the prevailing conflict while maintaining a palpable excitement for the impending electoral process.
The Election Commission of India recently announced the dates for the Lok Sabha elections for Manipur, which are scheduled in two phases, 19th and 26th April. With the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct, the political landscape has swiftly transformed. Notably, the (Communist Party of India (CPI)  officially declared its candidates. Laishram Sotinkumar Singh has been formally proclaimed the Communist Party of India’s candidate for the Inner Parliamentary Constituency; in contrast, the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and main Opposition Indian National Congress are yet to make an official announcement.
Conversely, an intriguing aspect emerges as many Manipuris express their intent to vote for candidates committed to fostering peace in Manipur and effectively representing the State’s concerns in Parliament.
They emphasise the importance of electing individuals who are vocal about addressing grievances and advocating for Manipur’s interests rather than passive or inactive members. Regardless of educational background, what truly matters to voters is the candidate’s determination to speak up and engage in meaningful dialogue on behalf of the State.
In the Outer Manipur Parliamentary Constituency, campaign activities and public gatherings have already commenced, signalling the onset of electoral fervour. As the political machinery gears up for the impending elections, anticipation runs high, with citizens eagerly awaiting the unveiling of candidates and the unfolding of campaign strategies. Amidst the current tumultuous situation in Manipur, a unified voice emerges from its people and various organisations, advocating for a pause or delay in the electoral process until and unless a concrete resolution is reached for the ongoing conflict.
At this critical juncture, many argue that holding elections is not imperative. Instead, they emphasise the pressing need to address the underlying issues plaguing the State before proceeding with electoral activities. This unified call underscores the collective desire for stability and sustainable solutions before navigating the electoral path.
Amid conflict, navigating the complex political landscape of Manipur during election season poses significant challenges. Despite the growing chorus for peace, this plea does not resonate with many. Instead, the quiet undercurrent of the electoral process often overshadows the call for resolution.
While newspapers may report on election activities, there must be more presence in localities. The people of Manipur, however, are not swayed by the election fervour and are unwilling to participate in the festivities of campaign songs. Their focus remains steadfast on pursuing peace, emphasising the need for dialogue and reconciliation above all else. Whether Manipur remains a conflict zone or not, whether solutions are forthcoming, and even if peace eludes us, the Lok Sabha elections will undoubtedly proceed during these critical times.
Elections are essential to democracy, allowing us to select representatives who will govern and uphold the nation. Therefore, the people of Manipur must cast their votes for individuals who are qualified and possess the courage to advocate Manipur’s interests vigorously in Parliament. Let us choose based on genuine conviction and thoughtful consideration rather than succumbing to external influences.
By electing wisely, we can ensure that Manipur’s voice resonates loudly in the corridors of power. Now is the opportunity to rectify past mistakes and amplify Manipur’s voice throughout India.